However, the flight from Banjul to this year's AFCON host country encountered problems with low cabin pressure, extreme heat and a lack of oxygen. Saidy Janko, defender of the Scorpions and Swiss champions Young Boys Bern, reported this on Instagram.
Gambia national team forced to make emergency landing after huge oxygen problems
On Wednesday (January 10, 2024) evening, the Gambia national team was due to fly to Ivory Coast for the final days of AFCON preparations.
"As soon as we entered the small plane that was hired to fly us, we noticed the immense heat that left us dripping in sweat. It was assured to us by the crew that the air condition would start once we are in the sky," the 28-year-old wrote on his Instagram page.
But this was apparently not the case: "The inhumane heat mixed with the occurring lack of oxygen left many people with strong headaches and extreme dizziness. Furthermore, people started falling deeply asleep minutes after entering the aircraft/takeoff."
As the situation in the air became even worse, the pilot of the Air Côte d'Ivoire flight had to initiate an emergency landing just nine minutes after take-off and land back in Banjul.
"If it wasn't for this, the consequences could have been a lot worse!!! Knowing what could have happened, if we would have been exposed to the situation for any longer - in an airplane, running out of oxygen," writes Janko, who was born in the Swiss city of Zurich but then decided to play for his father's home country.
Despite the shocking incidents, Janko, who has been under contract with huge clubs like Manchester United, Celtic Glasgow, FC Porto, Real Valladolid or VFL Bochum in his career, says the whole team and staff are doing well and are now back in a hotel in Banjul.
"We are grateful that everone is feeling well but this is a situation that has to be addressed going into the AFCON, as being only one of our obstacles on international duty."
With the last sentence, in the Instagram-Post, Janko is probably referring to the outstanding payments and the team strike on Tuesday.
At that time, the players were supposed to hold their final training session in front of thousands of fans at the national stadium in the capital Banjul before travelling to Abidjan.
However, the players boycotted the training session because the association did not pay them the allegedly promised bonus of $15,000.
Belgian coach Tom Saintfiet and his coaching staff tried to entertain the fans, but they were not satisfied. They demanded that the officials pay the players.
The Gambia will start their AFCON campaign next Monday against defending champions Senegal. They will later face Guinea and Cameroon in a tough group.
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